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Six degrees

Rachael Blackmore

 

Ip Man (right) passed away 40 years ago today, aged 79, from throat cancer. Born in Foshan, Guangdong province, the martial-art teacher's legacy is the global popularity of wing chun. Yip has been the subject of a whole raft of films recently; so much so that Donnie Yen Ji-dan has become sick of the role, telling the Guangzhou Daily in 2010, "After Ip Man 2, I will never touch any films related to Ip Man … Whenever something becomes a success, everyone jumps on the bandwagon." The bandwagon must go on, however, and the latest to hop aboard, playing the sifu in Wong Kar-wai's upcoming The Grandmasters, is Tony Leung Chiu-wai …

 

"Little Tony", as Leung is known - to differentiate him from "Big" Tony (actor Tony Leung Ka-fai) - has been wowing moviegoers since 1986's Love Unto Waste, in which he played a character called Tony, thus giving himself one less thing to remember. In 2008, he married Carina Lau Ka-ling after nearly 20 years of dating, but not before an article in The Times of London had described him as "handsome, with the enviable frame of a man who can put on anything knowing it will both flatter him and fit him". With that, the newspaper justified his supposed reputation of being the Asian Clark Gable …

 

Gable, unlike Leung, liked the ladies a little too much: he married five of them and had affairs with countless others. His third wife, Carole Lombard, became the first "female American casualty of the second world war" when the plane carrying her home from a war-bond selling tour crashed. After her death, Gable followed Lombard's wishes and enlisted, in the United States Army Air Corps. MGM's most valuable asset was largely spared combat, though, and when he tired of being kept out of harm's way he was granted a discharge. His discharge papers were signed by Captain Ronald Reagan …

 

When Reagan, by then "leader of the free world", saw the movie Back to the Future (1985), he so loved the joke about him being US president - an incredulous Doc Brown exclaims, "Ronald Reagan? The actor! Hah!" when a time-travelling Marty McFly tells him who will be president in 1985 - he had a White House flunky replay the clip for him. A Hong Kong solicitor was similarly moved in 1996, when he put himself forward to become the city's first chief executive. "When Reagan was a film star no one thought that he would become the American president," said an overly ambitious Paul Tse Wai-chun …

 

Tse didn't run for office in the end, because he was too young, had right of abode overseas and had not lived in Hong Kong continuously for at least 20 years. He has since found success of another kind, though: in October's Legco register of interests, the independent lawmaker topped the list of land and property holdings, with 26 across the globe. Perhaps his passion for property was behind Tse's name being put forward, in 2009, for membership of a committee to monitor the restoration of the Kowloon Tong home of Bruce Lee …

 

Lee Jun-fan (to use his Cantonese name, and whose dad, incidentally, was played by Big Tony in the 2010 movie Bruce Lee, My Brother) was a teacher as well as a fighter. His students included actors Steve McQueen, James Coburn and George Lazenby - all of whom were pall bearers at his funeral - but Lee wouldn't have had much to pass on to them unless his own sifus had known their stuff. The most influential of those was Ip Man.

 

 

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